Panel meets Mamata, seeks an action taken report within three months
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has expressed deep concern over the reported case of sexual assault on a physically challenged minor girl allegedly by a medical professional at the Bankura Medical Hospital in West Bengal.
“The case is extremely distressing considering that the victim is a person of special needs and she was under the care of a doctor, who not only is alleged to have committed the crime but also breached the trust of the patient. The Commission notes with dismay that the young SP who took prompt action in the matter and ensured timely enquiry has been transferred,” a three-member committee that probed the matter said in its report.
The committee constituted to enquire into the recent incidents of crime against women in West Bengal, visited the State on April 2 and 3. It comprised Wansuk Syeim and Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, members of the Commission and Anita Agnihotri, member secretary, NCW. The panel met Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and sought an action taken report within three months.
The Commission noted with dismay that the two key officers investigating the Park Street gang rape case and the Bankura case, were transferred before the inquiry could be completed. Both of them reportedly played a critical role in bringing the alleged perpetrators to book, giving courage and strength to the targets of attack and their families, the report said.
“The women who have been targets of attack should be offered financial compensation under provisions of the law (Section 357-A Cr.PC) by preparing an appropriate scheme, as has been done by other States. Hand-holding of the women should be done by designated field functionaries of the Women and Child Development Department so as to ensure that they do not suffer trauma and disruption of livelihood. If required, special assistance of psychologists and social workers should be provided,” it said.
The Commission also recommended a review of the convention presently adopted by the Commissionerate of Police, Kolkata, which required an order of a court before a victim of rape is subjected to a medical examination. “The Commission would like to point out that this convention is not present in other police organisations including West Bengal, and is against the spirit of law and recent judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts which clearly indicate that neither the medical officers nor the accused should get any advantage in the process and valuable medical evidence against the accused is lost in any matter.”
Drawing the attention of the government to the high number of crimes, in particular rapes and gang rapes over a short span of time in recent months, the report quoted an analysis of recent cases by NGO network Maitree that suggested that West Bengal recorded the second highest number of rape cases in the country and the rate of increase in reported cases was twice the national average. Moreover, this State had the second lowest conviction rate in the country.
Further, girls from the age of 7 to women of 72 were subjected to rape; this included housewives, working women, mentally and physically challenged women, and tribals; the incidents occurred at all times of the day and night in public places, government hospitals, homes, fields and everywhere.
The rapists ranged from students to tutors, teachers, family members, robbers, political party workers/elders and government workers among others.
“This clearly indicates that no woman is safe anywhere at anytime,” the report stated, while suggesting that such a factual study along with an exercise in vulnerability mapping in Crime Against Women would give insights into the mechanism of taking a reported case to the last stage and throw light on measures to be adopted for strengthening the system.
The Commission recommended that an advisory to all medical institutions including medical colleges and hospitals be issued by the Department of Health in order to orient and sensitise the medical professionals to the issues involved in crimes against women.
It recommended setting up of a 24x7 helpline for women across the State and intensifying preventive action in vulnerable areas.